Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My "Smear Artist" web page - about the New Yorker mag spiking political writer Jason Zengerle's bogus Heimlich article - was part of his GQ "veep vetting"

Check out this e-mail I received a couple months ago:  

Never heard of Zengerle? Via the Swarthmore Phoenix, his alma mater's school paper:

So why would a private eye trying to dig up dirt on him reach out to me?

That's easy.

The shamus must have seen this page that's been on my website for years, The Smear Artist - Jason Zengerle's Heimlich article. It details how in 2005, when he was under contract to the New Yorker to write an article about my father, Zengerle got caught trying to pull a fast one.  

After Zengerle spent a year flying around the country doing interviews on the New Yorker's dime, Radar magazine beat him to the punch with a scorching two-part expose by reporter Tom Francis, brimming with explosive revelations about my father's bizarre career and my efforts to make people aware of his crackpot medical claims that were putting lives at risk.

At the time, Zengerle wrote me that when the November 2005 Radar article appeared, his editor at the New Yorker - Amy Davidson - was not pleased.

One reason may have been that for at least five months, Zengerle had been aware that Francis's article was in the pipeline. Per this e-mail, he even attempted to crib from Francis:

According to a January 2006 e-mail Zengerle sent me, the New Yorker then refused to publish his article.

Over two years later, after it was rejected by a string of other magazines - Zengerle told me so - the New Republic published it.

That's when I realized why the New Yorker kicked it to the curb.

In The Choke Artist: Who are the mysterious critics hunting Henry Heimlich?, Zengerle portrayed my father as a beleaguered visionary in his December years, a medical lion in winter being hounded by an ungrateful son - that would be me - making wild, unsubstantiated accusations. (Click here for a selection of mainstream media reports based on same.)

Via a 2008 Cincinnati CityBeat column by veteran reporter turned journalism professor Ben Kaufman, Zengerle's attempt to discredit me may have more to do with his family issues:
Peter Heimlich's campaign to challenge his father's eponymous "maneuver" for choking and "malariotherapy" for AIDS now includes a 2007 article by Jason Zengerle in The New Republic magazine. Among Peter Heimlich's complaints are TNR's use of outdated information and interviews, abuse of confidentiality, inaccuracies and a concealed conflict of interest in which he says Zengerle's physician wife had professional links to the elder Heimlich.
After editor Franklin Foer rejected Peter Heimlich's complaint and questions, Cincinnati lawyer H. Louis Sirkin pressed the issue with TNR. A TNR lawyer summarily dismissed both queries.
Per my "Smear Artist" page, I brought in my attorney because I caught Zengerle using fabricated documents in his attempt to dirty me up in what TNR editor Franklin Foer called "a masterful piece of writing and reporting."

It wasn't the first time Zengerle relied on bogus paper for a hit piece.

A year before, Zengerle got caught in an attempted smear job on the late Steve Gilliard, an influential political blogger, using a bogus e-mail.

That turned into an exploding cigar and got Zengerle hoisted high by Glenn Greenwald:

Presumably Greenwald missed the Swarthmore article from two months earlier or he would have used this:

But enough old news.

Remember the private eye who was peeking into Zengerle's "darker light"?

At the time I assumed he'd been hired by an attorney for a civil case. The prospect of Zengerle being served a steaming pile of legal comeuppance caused me no distress, but I didn't want to get involved, so I didn't respond.

Then last week, GQ magazine, where Zengerle is a contributing editor, published Wanna Be Veep? Okay, but This Is Going to Hurt.

From the intro:
It's veep-vetting season, and it's the most invasive process in politics. Just how squeamish does it get? We sent Jason Zengerle to one of Washington's top vetters (attorney Ted Frank) to find out if he's got what it takes to be the next (God help us all) Sarah Palin.
From Zengerle's first-person article:
But then Frank's questions take a sudden turn. We are no longer talking about my junior-year Gothic-art-and-architecture seminar. Now it's my sex life. And my drug history. And the lowest moments of my journalism career.
Hey, I know about some of those low moments. Years ago I wrote about 'em on my website. Anyone could find my "Smear Artist" page via Google, a private investigator, for instance.

Ding, ding, ding.

So last week I phoned private investigator Steve Polak who confirmed my guess.  He also verified that he'd forwarded my web page to vetter Ted Frank.

Did Frank grill Zengerle about it?

I hope so, but that's not my point.

In the ink-on-newsprint days, when a journalist chose to kick somebody, there wasn't much recourse available to the target. A letter to the editor? A rebuttal op-ed?  

Thanks to this wide open prairie of free speech called the Internet, the targets now have an opportunity to properly tell their side of the story.

Not surprisingly, some journalists don't appreciate rabble like Steve Gilliard and me kicking back.

Back to the Swarthmore Phoenix:

Consider the source, my fellow rabble. Consider the source.

Source - Zengerle interview starts at timestamp 9:15